Russia says fire on the Moskva missile cruiser is contained

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A man walks beside the Russian Moskva Guided Missile Cruiser docked at Havana port, Cuba August 3, 2013. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan/File Photo

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April 14 (Reuters) - Russia's defence ministry said on Thursday that sailors had contained a fire on board the Moskva missile cruiser, the flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet, and that measures were being taken to tow it back to port.

The ministry, which said the blaze broke out after ammunition blew up on board, said the cruiser's main weaponry had not been damaged and that its crew had been evacuated onto other ships in the Black Sea.

"The source of the blaze on the Moskva cruiser has been contained," the ministry said in a statement, adding that the vessel remained afloat. "The explosions of ammunition have stopped."

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It said it was still trying to establish the cause of the incident.

The defence ministry had said earlier on Thursday that the Soviet-era ship had been badly damaged by the fire, the latest setback for Russia which has suffered a series of blows since it sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it called a "special military operation."

Ukraine's southern military command said on Thursday that it hit the Moskva with a Neptune anti-ship cruise missile. It said Russian rescue ships were then hampered by ammunition exploding on board as well as bad weather that had caused the Moskva to start sinking.

Reuters was unable to verify either side's statements.

Russia's navy has launched cruise missiles into Ukraine from the Black Sea to support its military activities in the south of the country, where it is battling to seize control of the port of Mariupol.

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Reporting by Reuters; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Raissa Kasolowsky

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